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Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Hand Made Christmas

A few months ago my children surprised me with a special Christmas request. They announced that they did not want electronic toys. They wanted hand made toys that helped develop their imaginations. My first thought was "Really?". For months before this all they wanted was a Nintendo DSi XL. Truth be told so did I? I had no idea how to pay for them and hoped that lay-a-way would be the answer to that question. Of course my soon-to-be-ex is completely opposed to lay-a-way. Then again he also is completely opposed to spending of money for anything.

The idea of buying hand made gifts was my first idea. I went to local craft shows hoping to find felt food like I saw on Etsy. It was often very realistic and I could see myself spending serious money on so many fun items. Unfortunately the local craft shows had nothing like what I was finding on Etsy. Christmas was fast approaching and buying items online and hoping they arrived before Christmas was risky. Plus I would have to hope the kids didn't see all the packages. So I shifted my thought process.

The kids wanted hand made toys, why couldn't I make them? I enjoy crafts, but I don't think of myself as crafty. It is an effort for me to make things because what I want them to look like and how they often actually turn out are very different things. Still I thought I could do it. I decided to make a puppet theater to hang in the doorway, a wood surface for P to drive his toy cars on. And for my daughter a play surface for her to play with her Littlest Pet Shop toys on. I needed paint, cloth, wood, felt, and glue. So I took the Christmas money and headed for the craft store. It was so scary to buy everything. What if I messed up? What if I spent all the money and the kids hated what I made? I was so worried!

One amazing thing happened my mom bought me a sewing machine for Christmas and gave it to me early. That helped make some of the items for the kids. When I threaded the needle for the first time I was thrilled. I knew that I was capable of getting these crafts done. I was starting to have faith in myself. I could really do this!

When I started working the job threw a monkey wrench into my plans. Prior to this I was working on puppets for the puppet theater at night. Now I had to sleep at night so I could work during the day. I was starting to get worried. Before this I hadn't even thought about what would happen if I didn't finish the items. I did have some other things to put under the tree but the items I was making were the big gifts. Christmas was getting closer and I was running out of time.

Okay it was now Christmas vacation, there were just days left and I hadn't even bought the wood I needed for the car board or play world for the kids. I left the kids with my Dad and headed to Home Depot. I walked over to were they had plywood and they had huge sheets, thin sheets, thick ones, small ones, so many different types of plywood. I thought this would be simple. Then a worker found me pondering several different pieces of wood. "May I help you?" he said and I think I audibly sighed in relief. I explained what I wanted to make and what sizes I needed and all I could think about was dollar signs. All this wood seemed to cost so much. I had underestimated the cost of wood.

The worker said he had something that was perfect for me and he showed me a thin sheet of plywood a little bigger than I needed but then he said the magic words, "I can sell you this for $2.00." Sold I said and picked out a smaller thicker piece for my daughter. He even helped me get the bar I needed for the doorway puppet theater so I could set it up and take it down easily. I paid for it and walked to the car to bring it home.

Remember when I said the wood was a bit larger than I needed? Well it also turns out that it was bigger than the trunk and the door to the back seat of my little car. There I was in the parking lot and of course it was cold and there was a bit of a mist in the air. How was I going to get this home? I had one option left, I put it on the top of the car. I had one bungee cord and a big yellow rope.

I strapped that piece of wood down and started for home. I drove mostly on side streets and of course went nice and slow. I could just imagine what other drivers thought as they passed me. I tried not to look at their faces. Eventually I made it home and hid the wood against the wall in the kitchen.

The item I made my son took two nights to make. The first night I painted the wood green. It took such a long time and I caught up on my missed episodes of Top Chef while I did the painting. Well that was until my worse half decided that he wanted to watch something different and changed the channel. I was busy so in his mind I wasn't watching tv. I ended up going to bed soon after that so we wouldn't get into a fight. The second day I added the streets and that was a lot of fun. It isn't perfect and there are some small imperfections but it was made from love and my son was thrilled when he saw it. It was the first thing he played with and the last before he went to bed that night.

The play world for my daughter was different. Again I painted it green, but that is all I did to the wood. All the decor on it was removable and changeable. I made lakes for her in several different colors including her beloved pink. I made stones out of foam so she could make pathways. I made trees out of pipe cleaners and pom poms. I had so much fun making these items and the best part is that I can make more for it because I didn't make anything permanent. She was also thrilled and has had so much fun playing with her animals.

The doorway puppet theater was the last large gift I made them. I picked some bright colored fabric to make it. Though I picked out fabric that was too thick. It broke my sewing machine's needle. So instead of sewing it together I used fabric glue. I even made the curtains for it tied back. The puppets for it were the most fun to make. I made animal finger puppets, I made, fun finger puppets. Some were not really anything, just figments of my imagination. I made people out of pieces of foam and attached them to popsicle sticks. I gave similar ones different facial expressions so they could be used for different emotions. They performed a puppet show for us on Christmas and it was so cute. They have wonderful imaginations and I am glad they chose to ask for gifts that allowed them to utilize them. It was a wonderful hand made Christmas and I can't wait to make more things for them.

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